Low-level activity of the trunk extensor muscles causes electromyographic manifestations of fatigue in absence of decreased oxygenation


This study was designed to determine whether trunk extensor fatigue occurs during low-level activity and whether this is associated with a drop in muscle tissue oxygenation. Electromyography (EMG) feedback was used to impose constant activity in a part of the trunk extensor muscles. We hypothesized that electromyographic manifestations of fatigue and decreased oxygenation would be observed at the feedback site and that EMG activity at other sites would be more variable without fatigue manifestations. Twelve volunteers performed 30-min contractions at 2% and 5% of the maximum EMG amplitude (EMGmax) at the feedback site. EMG was recorded from six sites over the lumbar extensor muscles and near-infrared spectroscopy was used to measure changes in oxygenation at the feedback site (left L3 level, 3 cm paravertebral). In both conditions, mean EMG activity was not significantly different between electrode sites, whereas the coefficient of variation was lower at the feedback site compared to other recording sites. The EMG mean power frequency (MPF) decreased consistently at the feedback site only. At 5% EMGmax, the decrease in MPF was significant at the group level at all sites ipsilateral to the feedback site. These results suggest that the limited variability of muscle activity at the EMG feedback site and at ipsilateral locations enhances fatigue development. No decreases in tissue oxygenation were detected. In conclusion, even at mean activity levels as low as 2% EMGmax, fatigue manifestations were found in the trunk extensors. These occured in absence of changes in oxygenation of the muscle tissue. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology